Currently on view through January 27th at Columbia College's Hokin Gallery is IN THE CIRCLE: CHICAGO FOOTWORK, an exhibition focused on the history and future of Chicago footwork in the form of photographs, collages, archival materials, film, and dancing - curated by South Side footwork crew The Era and Libby Buck and featuring the work of Wills Glasspiegel, B Rael Ali, and Chief Manny.
The Era, which "channels footwork through diverse mediums such as animation, art, fashion, film, poetry, education, and activism, and includes some of the city’s most accomplished dancers (Litebulb, Chief Manny, Dempsey, P-Top, and Steelo)" had a busy 2016, performing around the world, getting notice from local and national media like the Chicago Reader, Windy City Live, Vice, and others, choreographing their first evening length performance, and releasing their debut mixtape: In The Wurkz FM.
It’s no longer an exaggeration, or an overstatement: Chicago’s South Side is experiencing an artistic boom on par with the Harlem Renaissance, and its biggest and smallest artists all plowed forward this past year with an energy that was impossible to ignore no matter where you turned. You could easily feel it as the city watched Chance the Rapper continue his ascent to fame, acclaim, and a cool seven Grammy nominations, and indeed that’s the narrative that’s probably the easiest to find. That’s why you’ll see it covered the least here—because the truth was, you could feel it everywhere.
It was there in the ever-growing list of features and collaborations that appeared on each major hip-hop project, where artists like Akenya, Nina Tech, Eryn Allen Kane, and theMIND popped up throughout the year—curiosities on a set of liner notes today, stars of the city tomorrow. It was there in Pilsen’s most DIY venues, where punks and metalheads alike carried the legacy of Los Crudos and Metallica while reinventing what it could mean to love and live with both. It was there as the Chosen Few DJs hosted their 26th annual Chosen Few Picnic, now swelled from a gathering among some of the original Chicago house DJs to a two-day festival that hosts tens of thousands and holds a co-sign from none other than Barack Obama.
What was “it”? Among other things, it was the sound and feeling of existence, of defiance. It’d be impossible to sum up the year in South Side music through its sounds alone, or its lyrical themes, so varied and resistant to categorization as they were. So instead we’re forced to think about the resistance itself—about what is being resisted, and to what, or, more accurately, who, we’re compelled to turn instead.It was there in streets, on Twitter, on makeshift dance floors and grimy basements and Cellular Field all alike. It was there in the Dojo, a dimly lit hub and haven for the discontented. It was there as places like Young Chicago Authors and YOUmedia continued to offer homes for young poets and artists. It was there in the birthplace of footwork, the Battlegroundz, where The Era debuted their mixtape. It was at Lollapalooza, where Savemoney rapper after Savemoney rapper brought their songs and lives to thousands night after night. It was even in the church of Pastor T.L. Barrett, who found his voice on one of the biggest Kanye West tracks of the year even as he continued, unconcerned, to preach the gospel at his church on 55th and Indiana.
Read the full issue at South Side Weekly.
IN THE CIRCLE: CHICAGO FOOTWORK runs through January 27th:
The Hokin Project Gallery / 623 S. Wabash Ave, 1st Floor Chicago, IL 60605
Gallery Hours: Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.–6 p.m.
Excerpt taken from South Side Weekly's 2016 Music Issue.
Photos by Wills Glasspiegel.